I love Scotland. I was very happy living in Edinburgh, but my brain chemistry wasn’t. Seasonal Affective Disorder made me disinclined to stay: going directly from there to live and work in subtropical Hong Kong, where I could be (and was) on the beach in November just dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s. After that experience of liberation from the tyranny of grey skies, it would have been masochistic to go back. Even living in Norway in the depths of winter wasn’t half as grim to me; in fact it was rather thrilling and the inclement weather felt like a pleasant challenge rather than ten tons of depression fuel, perhaps because I knew better weather would come… and it did, and all the Norwegians were out doing wholesome, healthy outdoors things the moment it became the slightest bit feasible, including even my neighbour the black metal guy and his smackhead-looking girlfriend. I was surrounded by Norwegians as well, of course, who are probably the most pragmatic and funniest people I’ve ever met, in a nation that just gets on with things instead of doing what the UK does and grinding to a whinging, self-dramatising halt whenever it snows, rains or gets windy. Which, incidentally, is normal and expected here so I still don’t know why it takes our transportation and infrastructure services by surprise every single damn time.
Scots have their finer qualities, too, but it’s no coincidence that the word “dour” is a Scottish one either. You won’t get much sympathy from anyone in the British Isles if you complain about the weather even if it’s literally making you suicidal, because everyone feels equally oppressed and personally targeted by it. I doubt anybody British or anybody who’s been to Britain will need to be officially diagnosed with S.A.D. to know exactly how (the recently discussed) Edinburgh native Robert Louis Stevenson was feeling when he wrote this:
“Edinburgh pays cruelly for her high seat in one of the vilest climates under heaven. She is liable to be beaten upon by all the winds that blow, to be drenched with rain, to be buried in cold sea fogs out of the east, and powdered with snow as it comes flying southward from the Highland hills. The weather is raw and boisterous in winter, shifty and uncongenial in summer, and a downright necrological purgatory in the spring…”
(Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes’, 1878.)
RLS went off to the South Seas in search of some relief from his bad chest, his general sickliness, and the misery-making environs of Auld Reekie, but he died quite soon afterwards on his tropical island, of a brain haemorrhage.
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